The first land dialogue of George Business initiated by Dr Dennis Farrell and Prof Quinton Johnson was held at the Civic Centre on 2 July 2018. Numerous industry stakeholders attended the meeting, together with representatives from the municipality. Mayor Melvin Naik opened the Land Dialogue and noted that land expropriation without compensation was still to be discussed by Council, and congratulated the Chambers for their initiative. He noted that it was vital for South Africa to resolve the land matter expeditiously to ensure social harmony and economic progress for all.
Prof. Quinton Johnson, Chair of the South African National Institute (SANi) for Land, Heritage and Human Rights, delivered the keynote address and facilitated the discussions. The latter focused on land expropriation without compensation, whilst ensuring increased investment and economic development, higher agricultural productivity and better food security, as articulated by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He provided a summary of the various discussions that SANi has facilitated across the country, which reflected on Section 25 of the Constitution. This included the right not to be deprived of land, expropriation, just and equitable compensation as well as the stipulation that none of its provisions should hamper land reform in South Africa, amongst others.
Some of the further matters that were discussed included: the need to establish a super-ministry in the Presidency for Land and Agrarian Reform, with a permanent Cabinet Committee, to achieve our national vision; finalization of the long-outstanding Expropriation Bill; strengthening of the Land Claims Court; appointment of a Land Rights Protector; creation of a Land Registry and a Constitutional Court pronouncement on what is “just and equitable”, are further imperatives amongst several, for addressing our complex challenges.
Mr. Richard Shumi, Thembalethu Business Chamber Chair, commented that we need a national plan for land reform that all communities can understand and support. Dr. Dennis Farrell, Chair of the George Business Chamber noted that we must urgently resolve the land question since studies show that unrest related to a lack of service delivery, which is connected to the need for land in several instances, has a very detrimental impact on the economy. Mr. Julian Klaasen, Spokesperson for the Pacaltsdorp Business Chamber said that government needs to especially support emerging farmers by way of skills development, funding and access to markets, through accelerated land and agrarian reform. Dr. Paul Kruger, Chair of the Mossel Bay Chamber agreed that equitable access to land is important, but that it should also be accompanied by increased job creation.
Throughout the Land Dialogue, citizens were apprised of developments via several live Eden FM broadcasts. The Programme Director, Ms. Bonny Brink-Lawrence, Ms. Ingrid Cronje, CEO of the George Business Chamber and Mr. Pedro Oliphant, Manager of Local Economic Development at the George Municipality, reported on all of the very valuable comments from the participants in the Land Dialogue. Further meetings with various business chambers and municipalities are planned across the Garden Route District to ensure that a conceptual framework is developed to engage with the Parliamentary Constitutional Review Committee, when they visit the region on 1 August 2018, and beyond.
Front Row (fltr): Dr. Dennis Farrell, Executive Mayor Melvin Naik, Mr. Julian Klaasen, Mr. Richard Shumi and Dr. Willie Cilliers with Prof. Quinton Johnson, first from left on the second row.